As a 3 & D Wing, Matthews might finally have the pieces to excel in a Dallas Mavericks uniform.
Wesley Matthews is nearly as controversial of a player the Mavericks have. Not because he isn’t committed, not because he doesn’t play hard, not because he isn’t talented, but because he hasn’t lived up to his contract. But as his time in Dallas seems to be dwindling, the team might finally have the ability to maximize his skill set.
First of all, let’s get our story straight on the contract. If you remember way back to the summer of 2015 when we signed Wes to his current contract, he was signing up to be joining a team that would star DeAndre Jordan, Chander Parsons, himself and Dirk for $16M/yr. Well it was no secret to the Mavs that he had suffered an Achilles injury the previous season since it happened AGAINST the Mavs a few months prior. The medical staff ok’d him and the front office offered him the deal. When DeAndre decided to stay a “Clipper For Life”, Cuban offered to let Matthews out of his commitment since wasn’t getting what he signed up for. Wes stuck to his own commitment and Cuban rewarded him with A BIGGER CONTRACT!!! That was not Wes’ call, so let’s finally stop blaming him for that.
In his time here, Wes has won over the coaching staff with his work ethic and leadership, has worked his way back from what many consider to be a career ending injury and remained our team’s best perimeter defender night in and night out, guarding the best player on the other team despite the position. He’s basically a combination of the defensive nature of The Matrix, Shawn Marion, and the outside shooting of older Vince Carter, and that is a valuable player on any NBA team.
So why has he underperformed?
In his first two seasons with the Mavs, Matthews had his worst statistical years since his rookie campaign so fans see him as a bad signing for the Mavericks since he didn’t even live up to his billing. However, let’s consider the overall situation. The Mavs hired a specialist in 3 point shooting and perimeter defense and then expected him to step out of that specialization and become the GO TO playmaker behind Dirk on a team sporting Chandler Parsons and a past-his-prime Deron Williams as the supporting cast. That bill did not fit. However, he did defend the best player on the opposing team every single night regardless of position, but that doesn’t show up in the stats other than the Defensive Win Shares, where he was the highest rated guard both years. But when we got Barnes, he was able to play more of his natural position, guard the players he SHOULD be guarding and had a better stat line that fell right in line with his career averages. He’s back, but he’s also getting older.
So why will he be better?
Why would a 30, soon to be 31, year old player have the best year of his 4 year contract this year? The team is finally structured again to need a 3 & D wing! Last year, with Dennis Smith Jr. as your rookie point guard who was finding his sea legs in the NBA, Wes raised his shooting percentages a full 2% across the board (field goal %, 2-pt %, 3-pt %, and field goal efficiency) because he finally had a playmaker to drive and dish to him utilizing the skill set he was paid to bring to the Mavericks. Now add a rim running, defensive stalwart in the paint with DeAndre Jordan who will suck defenders in leaving the perimeter wide open…sounds good for a 3 point shooter who shot 38% last year, right? Ok, now add on top of that a gifted young distributer in Luka Doncic who seems to have eyes in the back of his head to find the open man while Dennis and DeAndre make defenses scramble and switch for a full possession.
That sounds like a cast of characters that can get a 3 point shooter the ball before a shot clock winds down and necessitates a 3 point Hail Mary. Wes was trying to do too much the past few years, and he acknowledges that. Last year’s turnaround is proof that he has found his niche here, albeit later than we all would have wanted.
On top of that, with all the youth and developing skill sets of the group around him, he won’t have to cover so many mistakes and blown coverages on the defensive side of the ball either. The Mavs finished in the middle of the pack last year on defense, then they added DeAndre Jordan in the paint, have a point guard in his second year, and added a 6’9” rookie-vet to help cover wings. Wesley can lock in on defending HIS position which will give him more energy on the other end of the floor as well.
All this is to say that while no one will all of a sudden love his contract, Wes Matthews has been grinding for this team for 3 years and we finally have a group of talent that truly needs his exact services. When you have all the parts to an engine assembled, a car actually runs like its supposed to. That’s what I think this currently constructed Mavs roster finally is: well constructed. Wes isn’t the lynchpin of this team, but I think you will see him excel this year in the role he was meant to play.
FYI, we’re less than a month away from Mavs Media Day, which kicks off training camp! We’re almost there, y’all!
PHOTO: Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports